When a friend on facebook was bemoaning the often dubious delights of business travel, I mentioned that I viewed business trips as a free taster: identifying those places you'd like to return to when you actually have time to see them. Those who know my predilection for modern architecture in general and tall buildings in particular won't be surprised to learn that Dubai was high on my list for a return visit.

There is always something new being built there, and I was particularly keen to see the Cayan Tower (originally named the Infinity Tower) which was completed last year. There's a full 90-degree twist in its 80-floor height.

I wasn't disappointed in the sight: it's a truly spectacular building.

No visit to Dubai is complete without a look at the Burj al Arab. Only a shameless marketing genius could invent a whole new star category, and then make up not just a 6-star rating but skip direct to seven.

I'm told the restaurant pricing falls firmly into 'if you have to ask' territory. When I want to take a look inside a posh hotel, I generally just breeze in with the air of someone who owns the place. That wouldn't work here: no-one gets onto the island without a reservation for either a stay or a meal.

Afternoon tea is often a very good value way to experience a luxury hotel for an affordable price, but even someone with my love of tea and cake isn't going to pay £93 for it ...

Asking for tall building recommendations on facebook, a friend of a friend suggested the bar on the 52nd floor of the Marriott Harbour. This is the green-topped tower in the foreground here.

This looked especially appealing, given that it would provide another view of ...

I always try to time my tall building visits for around half an hour before sunset, allowing me to enjoy both daylight and nighttime views. I especially love the golden hour, or blue hour.

The sunset itself was a bit blah.

But the wine wasn't. I look on a glass or two of over-priced wine as the entrance fee for such views, but things weren't at all over-priced here: I paid just over a tenner for two very nice glasses of Malbec.

The sunset may have been nothing to write home about, but the blue hour did not disappoint. I couldn't do much about the reflections, though was able to remove at least some of them in Lightroom later.

What a view! Thanks, Kelly, for the recommendation.

This was, however, just the appetiser for my visit the following day to the Burj Khalifa: the world's tallest building. It's a little garish on the outside with all the gold, but still very pretty.

I decided to start with a walk around the outside of it. You'd think this wouldn't take long, but it's attached to the Dubai Mall, a shopping centre of huge proportions, so the walk was rather long and very hot.

As for the Dubai Mall, I think these two photos probably sum it up.

Shopping is so not my thing, and my tolerance for large swathes of gold is limited.

I was again doing the sunset thing, and was again disappointed by the distinct lack of anything resembling one. Ah well.

I was not, however, disapppointed by the view from the 124th floor. :-)

The observation deck has an open-air area. This is a glass-enclosed conservatory type affair with horizontal slots in the glass which are large enough to give a real sense of being outside while being just too small to stop any would-be base-jumpers sliding through. (Actually, I think a particularly slim one might just about make it.)

The sense of being outside was particularly strong given the winds of at least 30mph that were whipping past.

I originally intended to set up my tripod to shoot through the slot, but the way the platform was designed, it was impossible to get more than two of the feet on the ground while still being high enough to line up with the slot. I tried bracing it on two legs against one of the columns, but the wind was far too strong to make this feasible for the 30-second exposures I'd need later.

I put my camera away, enjoyed the open platform for a while and then went inside to stake out a place by the glass for the blue hour. Again, the reflections couldn't be helped, and I again vowed that the moment I own my own skyscraper, there will be five-minute slots once an hour when all the interior lights are switched off.

But with this view, I was willing to overlook the reflections.

The only thing I found was it was so high up, and so far from other buildings, that the wide-angle shot I generally take wasn't actually that compelling. I decided to switch to my trusty 35-70/f2.8 for some tighter shots.

Shooting tighter and angling downward had the additional benefit of enabling me to cut out most reflections. I was dressed all in black, so was able to position myself to block the reflections on one side, and I enlisted the services of a friendly German lady, also dressed in black, to block the reflections on the other side.

A similar approach on the other side of the building also proved effective.

This was more like it. I decided to try the same approach with the main downtown view seen in the wide-angle shot.

I wandered back onto the observation deck to find the winds a bit gentler, so thought I'd try a high-ISO hand-held shot at 1/60th, trusting to the D3's fantastic low-light performance to save the day. It coped beautifully, merely giving me a slight shrug as I turned it up to 6400ISO.

I then put the camera away and spent another hour or so just enjoying the views.

Down below, there was a light and fountain show once an hour, so I waited around for the next one. It was ok, but didn't seem to me to justify the large crowds that had gathered for it. Perhaps it was just tough for any sight to compete with the one I'd just experienced.


I found another ground view I thought might be interesting, and set up the tripod for it. Just as I got set up, a security guard came over to tell me tripods were not allowed there.

I of course apologised, told him that I had not been aware of this, and I would naturally respect the rule and put my tripod away, and I appreciated him coming to tell me as I do like to know the rules so it's always very helpful when someone takes the time to explain, and thank you for being polite and friendly about it, that makes such a difference - by the end of which speech my 30-second exposure was complete. Shame after all that it turned out to be a bit of a meh shot.

The following day, I took a trip to the old town, but to be honest it all just looked very surburban. I head back downtown, had a very long and enjoyable chat about everything and nothing with an ex-pat Brit who'd lived here for years, then headed over to the Raddison Blu Downtown what looked like a terrace with a promising view in time for sunset.

Today got a bit closer to an actual sunset, though I had yet to see any colour other than yellow.

A newly-constructed building partially blocked the view of the Burj Khalifa, but one can't really complain about this skyline. Last night I'd been up there looking down here; tonight I was down here looking up there.

Bets as to how long it will remain the tallest building in the world?

That should have been my goodbye to Dubai, with a flight the following morning, but I was on a standby deal and the flight was overbooked. Fortunately, I can work from anywhere and a same-day booking at a decent hotel can be had on laterooms.com for £30-50 a night, so this wasn't too big a deal. Rinse and repeat the next day.

The enforced extension to my visit did at least provide an opportunity to visit another bar with a view that had been recommended to me, this time on the 70th floor. I didn't want to lug a tripod around on what was just an evening out after work, so settled for more of a snapshot, but I think I got the best view in the bar.

If you look at the blue-lit building bottom-right, then track diagonally up and left to the building with a blue top and white vertical lighting, that's the hotel from which last night's photo was taken.

Another day, another trip to DBX ... and another trip back from it.

At least I didn't have to go anywhere for the evening's viewing pleasure: this was the view from my hotel room (though actually taken from the roof terrace, one floor up).

Finally, three days after I was due to return home, I decided it was time for a Plan B: I hit Skyscanner to check for cheap flights. There was bad news, good news and bad news.

The bad news was that all the direct flights were really expensive. The good news was that there were some cheap indirect ones. The bad news was that most of those were 25+ hours with lengthy stoppovers in the middle of nowhere. I did, though, find one 11-hour trip with a 2-hour stoppover.

This was with Azerbaijan Air with the stoppover in Baku. Wouldn't be my first choice of airline or route, but hey, it was cheap and reasonably quick. There was nothing available that day, so I booked a 1pm flight the following day that would allow for one last standby attempt beforehand.

By now, I just wanted to be home, so booked a hotel right by the airport. Of course, having now made alternative arrangements, I got a seat with Virgin, including an upgrade to Premium Economy. I was, finally, on my way home.

So, a rather longer stay than the long weekend planned, and a little more adventure than is ideal, but there are worse places to be stranded, and I was still glad to have gone.